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Published:June 27th, 2006 22:21 EST
Bush Creates World's Largest Marine, Protected Area in Hawaii

Bush Creates World's Largest Marine, Protected Area in Hawaii

By Sarah Huffman

President Bush established the largest conservation area and the largest protected marine area in the world in Hawaii on June 15.

The name of this area is The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. This area is different not only for its size but its unique ecosystem. One quarter of the species there are not found anywhere else. The archipelago stretches almost 2,600 kilometers across the central Pacific Ocean and is home to more than 7,000 marine species. It is also the largest and healthiest coral-reef system in the United States.

"As a marine national monument, the waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will receive our nation's highest form of marine environmental protection," said President Bush at a White House ceremony. "We will protect a precious natural resource. We will show our respect for the cultural and historical importance of this area. And we will create an important place for research and learning about how we can be good stewards of our oceans and our environment."

According to a White House fact sheet, unauthorized passage of ships will be prohibited, as well as unauthorized recreational or commercial activity, removal of coral wildlife minerals and other resources or waste dumping. "This is a landmark achievement for conservation, protection and enhancement of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This administration will now serve as a new custodian of the reserve.

"President Bush's action today spotlights ocean health on the world stage," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit organization that works for environmental protection policies. "The president has put forth an excellent model for protecting marine resources that we hope will be replicated elsewhere in the United States and throughout the world. We now have an opportunity to build on this action by calling for the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in international waters, and we urge world leaders to follow the President's lead."

The creation of the Hawaiian Islands Monument is one element of the Bush administration's Ocean Action Plan. This plan is also working to reduce waste dumped in the ocean. The plan is also seeking action to end over-fishing, restore fisheries and develop a system of offshore aquaculture. This monument has been in the works for four years (See related article (http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/Archive/2004/Dec/20-946963.html ).)

The transcript (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/06/20060615-6.html ) of President Bush's remarks is available on the White House Web site, as is a fact sheet (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/06/20060615-9.html ) on the monument.

For additional information, see the electronic journal Shared Oceans, Shared Future (http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/0404/ijge/ijge0404.htm ) and the Website of the Natural Resources Defense Council (http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/060615.asp ).

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)